Walking by the Old House

Walked by my old house yesterday. The four-bedroom ranch structure that Sternenberg Lumber Company built for Bob Bellah in 1957 hasn’t been occupied by my family since 1968.

It’s only a few blocks from where I now live, but I hardly ever pass it—one, because it’s not on the way anywhere and, two, because the memory is bittersweet. You see, only half of our six are left. Mom and Dad are gone, as is my little sister, D’Lynne.

Thought of her when I noticed the narrow, brick entrance to the long pear-shaped driveway. Every few weeks my sister—who never seemed able to back her car in a straight line—managed to topple a few bricks on one side or the other.

I grinned to see that there were recent signs of similar damage and wondered if the current family has a similarly challenged driver.

The towering willow is gone from the front yard. They don’t last long in our West Texas soil. But the blue spruce is still there—a giant where we planted a sapling. Again I smiled, wondering what the current owners would think if they knew they were nurturing a stolen conifer, plucked illegally over 50 years ago from the Carson National Forest outside Red River.

There were other memories: teenaged boys playing Horse on the hoop over the garage, Dad with his boys hosing off the ski boat after a weekend at Buffalo Lake, eager children unwrapping presents beneath a huge Christmas tree framed by the big picture window which faced the street.

Seemed strange—to walk by my house, a stranger. I felt I deserved a wave, a smile, some kind of recognition. But no one was home—wouldn’t know me anyway—and  the neighbors are all new.

Made me wonder what my kids will one day think when they walk by the house where I no longer live. Anyway, I have a bit more appreciation for others with similar feelings, like the fearless Commanche who once hunted buffalo here or the rugged cowboys who followed.

Maybe the Indians had it right. The land doesn’t belong to us as much as we to the land. We just get to enjoy it for a while.

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